Trigger warning: post mentions suicide attempt and overdosing
Eleven seasons in, and Supernatural still packs one helluva punch. I’m Meg, your new Supernatural contributor. I’m pretty new to the show and the fandom, but I am DEEP in the dumpster now, and there is no climbing out. I’ve binge-watched the whole show about four times. I’m a con-going, fic reading, ship sailing fangirl. It’s the best kind of hell. Just a quick little bit about my fandom attitude: I don’t care who anyone’s favorite is, we’re all allowed to have them, but one thing you won’t read here is hate. I love all our boys.
In “Red Meat” we open mid action, with Dean and Sam fighting monsters and trying to save a couple who are, by the looks of it, hanging by handcuffs on a couple meat hooks in the middle of a dark and dank cabin. This is a pretty average day in the Winchester’s lives of saving people and hunting things. That is, until Sam gets shot by a werewolf who is, clearly, not long for this world once Dean sees what he’s done. There is a lot happening in a short time, but the world stops when Sammy’s hurt, and then we flash to 48hrs earlier.
Two days before this we’re back in the bunker with an increasingly hopeless and depressed Dean, while Sam is trying to keep his brother from the abyss by giving him something to focus on other than his best friend being possessed by Lucifer or The Darkness’s impending destruction of the world. I’d be depressed too, Dean. I feel ya. Sam thinks this will be a pretty easy hunt, and that they’re going stir crazy just researching. The fact that Dean would rather stay in the bunker and research than go kill something is a pretty big hint to his state of mind right now. He’s hopeless, and I’m actually damned proud of him that the table isn’t cluttered with beer bottles and whiskey glasses. I completely understand where Sam is coming from, though. His brother is drowning, and needs to get his mind off the situation with Amara and Cas. Dean grudgingly agrees to join Sam for this “milk run.”
“Obviously this hunt was a super idea!” is probably what they’re both thinking as we’re brought back to the immediate action and see Dean dig the bullet out, field style, and Sam bandaging his own fucking wound while Dean helps our not-so-happy hipster hikers. The man, Corbin, informs Dean that his wife, Michelle, is pretty badly hurt and that they need to get out of there. Now, it’s easy to kinda hate Corbin from the start. I kinda do. Dean is digging the bullet out of Sam while Corbin basically says “Hello? A little help here??” to him. Buddy, you’ve been hanging there for days, another 5min won’t kill you, and someone else is literally bleeding out on the floor. This is my initial reaction, but, as far as Corbin goes: his wife is hurt, these guys are strangers. I get it, but still. Calm your body. Dean gets them down while Sam tries to staunch the bleeding, and we learn that not only is there no phone in this cabin (not surprising), but that there is also no signal, because we’re in the middle of a state park and being able to call 911 would end this episode pretty damn quickly. Dean is obviously not going to leave Sam alone, but Corbin and Michelle understandably don’t want to hang out waiting for their abductors’ buddies to show up. Sam says “Fuck it” while they’re arguing and gets up to go, because Sam has no time for bickering or bullet wounds.
Back to the time before Moose got himself shot, and we see the boys in a run-down roadside bar which, frankly, is their usual hang. They’re chatting up the bartender, a middle-aged blonde woman who doesn’t recognize our hikers because “everyone under 40 looks the same.” I don’t believe her for one second, because there is no way I wouldn’t remember Dean and Sam, even if I were dead. But I digress. They have run out of leads. They’ve talked to everyone they can, and nothing. They’re just getting ready to leave when bartender lady comes back and says “Hey! I remembered there are all these easements around where hikers and campers sometimes hang out for days or weeks at a time.” Why no one has thought to look there yet is beyond me, but she suggests they go look there and even helpfully points out on the map where the boys can find them. They leave, passing a cranky ass bouncer as they go.
We come back to the present where our quartet is walking or, in respect for accuracy, shuffling down a path trying to get a signal and keep their sense of humor as Sam jokes about bad chili. They find a better equipped cabin and check for phones or service and give Sam and Michelle time to rest. No such luck, and Corbin proves that he’s suicidal by suggesting to Dean that “those of us who can” should move on and leave the deadweight (Sam, literally dead weight) behind. Sam agrees, over Dean’s protests and says they should go and send help for him. Dean, being Dean, won’t leave Sam and heads out to get some wood to make a trivet or stretcher or giant backpack to carry Sam the last two or so miles to the Impala. I mean, I see everyone’s point here, but I gotta agree with Dean. It’s two miles, and almost daylight. Suck it up, bearded man. Meanwhile, we find the bartender lady and “Significant Look Bouncer Man” checking out the cabin where our rescued duo was being held. They’re not happy. Bartender lady practically served up the FBI guys on a platter to the others, not knowing it was the other way around, because Dean and Sam are badass mother fuckers who know what’s up. They decide to “clean up the mess and head outta town” since they’re burned here.
While Dean, who has been extremely calm and practical up til now, has a mini panic attack in the woods, Sam tells Corbin and Michelle to go get Dean and leave. He’ll stay and they can send help. Corbin agrees… with most of it. He (rightly) assumes that there is literally no way to get Dean to leave without Sam, and that he and Michelle couldn’t possibly survive without Dean. For two miles. So, rather than leave Sam and get help, Corbin decides to cover our wounded Moose’s mouth and nose and suffocate him so Dean doesn’t feel obligated to stay. Okay. At this point I’m basically saying “FUCK this guy!” to my TV. Dude is an asshole and a coward, but he’s trying to save someone he loves. I find Corbin and Dean to have a lot more in common that I find comfortable, since I love Dean and hate Corbin. I mean, Dean left the gates of Hell open to save Sam, killed Death to save Sam. However, Dean is “family” so we’re able to see deeper into it than someone just killing people we love. Dean spots some headlights in the woods and runs back to the cabin to warn everyone and get them moving, only to find his little brother dead and Corbin with a lame excuse “He just… died.” Michelle is upset, and Dean is beside himself, shaking Sam and calling his name. Corbin is ready to go when the truck’s headlights appear in the window, but Dean is ready for a fucking fight. Because at this point, Dean gives zero fucks, so long as he gets to kill something. Corbin brings him back to himself by basically being the voice of Sammy saying “If you stay, we all die. Help us, please,” and convinces Dean to leave with them. He promises Sammy he’ll come back for him, and they get the fuck out of there before the Werewolf Clean Up Crew gets to the cabin.
We get one more flashback of Sam acting like a little kid telling Dean “Come on! It’ll be like camping! It’ll be fun!”, while Dean disagrees that “freezing their nuts off” in the middle of nowhere is anything but shitty. We hop back to the present, where Dean is searching for a cell phone signal and Michelle is questioning her choice in life partners. “What happened?” she asks and gets the blanket excuse for terrible things “I did what I had to do to save you, I can’t lose you”, from her husband. We have heard this before, and Michelle and Corbin make an interesting parallel to Dean and Sam in this episode, in that one will do whatever it takes to save the people they love, the rest of the world be damned, and the other sits in quiet horror as they see the absolute worst their loved one can be. There is a big difference here though. And that is that Sam would do the same for Dean, and has. We don’t know that about Michelle. And frankly, watching this episode, I don’t care. Corbin was selfish and killed a wounded man for his own gain, and I find that hard to get behind and defend.
They come upon a road and a park ranger that Dean flags down to help his charges while he tries to get back to the cabin to his brother. The park ranger has never heard of the Winchesters though, and tries to stop Dean. Dean punches him and gets tazed for his trouble, waking up in a hospital bed with “a few broken ribs and a mean concussion,” which, given the job, is a pretty minor injury to this guy. As a side note, there is a headcanon that Castiel is always gone because he keeps going back in time, healing Dean and Sam’s concussions because otherwise they would both be puddles of Jell-o by now. This is my belief and I will hold on to it for life. Dean’s doctor is taking none of his “I’m fine” bullshit and orders him to stay in bed, while Corbin is seemingly without guilt, telling the park ranger about how “That guy’s brother just died and then we left.” Michelle, visibly upset with both the knowledge that her husband is a murderer, and that he is callously referring to the people who saved their lives (and died doing so) as “those guys” bristles and tells the ranger that they were taken by werewolves and that Dean and Sam saved them. The park ranger (understandably) thinks she’s just tired and suffering from PTSD, and decides to let them rest, but assures them that he’ll radio it in to have the cabin checked out. The No Bullshit doctor checks out Corbin who, despite being held captive for days and having an impressive bite mark on his forearm, “feels good.” And that bodes well for everyone involved. The park ranger radios his partner who is not answering him since he’s pretty dead.
Dean has never been one to listen and is trying to leave the hospital when Michelle comes to see him. She wants to thank him and say she’s sorry for his loss. It’s a touching and sad moment in that, so few people ever seem to thank them, and this thank you comes at a steep price. Michelle wants to offer Dean some comfort by telling him what her mother used to say, that “Death isn’t the end.” She doesn’t know who she is talking to, though, and Dean perks up at this thought because he’s Dean and he has a terrible idea. We know that there is nothing he won’t do for his brother, so when he and Michelle head to the storage closet of the clinic and he tells her about talking to a “Scary Death Machine” who can tell him about his brother but isn’t really a friend, we have a pretty clear idea of what he’s about to do. Michelle is taking all of this very well, and asks him how to talk to them. “I gotta die.” Way to ease her in, Dean. She doesn’t know that you’ve died over 100 times by now! While Michelle is letting this sink in, we see that Sam is not, in fact, dead. Dean doesn’t know this, however, and takes the biggest handful of pills I’ve ever seen, telling Michelle to get the doctor to try and save him, but if they can’t, no hard feelings.
Okay. So I have read and heard a lot of things about this moment. I agree that it’s Romeo and Juliet levels of timing, but I disagree with the people who roll their eyes at Dean’s actions. Firstly, this is so completely in character for Dean that I can’t believe that anyone is remotely surprised. But mostly, I think people tend to forget that Dean isn’t living in a TV show. This is all real to him. He knows that, having killed Death, he and his brother aren’t going to be getting any favors anytime soon. This is the most scared and desperate I’ve seen him since waaaaay back in season two when he sold his soul to save Sammy’s life. It’s obvious to us that Sammy isn’t going to die, but Dean doesn’t have the luxury of our knowledge, so we have to cut him some slack here. It’s not smart, but it’s understandable. Sam is his de facto son. And there’s nothing we won’t do for our kids. The only bit I don’t understand is why Dean didn’t sit the hell down, he’s battered enough.
Sam is bleeding, Dean is dying, and the werewolves are the slowest walkers on the planet, having not yet reached the cabin. Michelle runs to get the doctor to try and save Dean, because she’s a bundle of goodness and light. Now, while everyone is trying to save everyone else, Corbin is in the bathroom, wounds healed and beard looking glorious as ever… having been turned into a werewolf.
Back at the cabin, Sam hears the werewolves and goes to the basement to hide, just as Bouncer Werewolf kicks in a perfectly good door looking for him. One big whiff tells him where our bloodied Moose is, and he heads to the basement. Back at the hospital, Dean is being a micromanaging ghost who is telling the doctor how to do her job when the scene freezes and Billie walks in. Now, in case you don’t remember, Billie is the badass reaper from the first episode of the season. I want to hate her, because she’s an “enemy,” but she shoots straight and has no bullshit, so I find it really hard. I love her, she’s scary and awesome. Billie is surprised that Dean is a suicide, which is understandable, since she knows Sam isn’t dead. I’d like to believe that Dean is strong enough to survive should Sam die, but I’m not sure. Dean tries to make a deal with Billie, first trying to trick her into thinking that Sam is the only one who can stop Amara; then by offering himself in Sam’s stead. Billie is ever consistent, however, and tells him that, even if it were the case that Sam could save the world, and herself, the answer will always be “No.” The Winchesters have used up all their extra lives, and it’s time for Dean to go to The Empty. Dean looks about ready to go, until Billie informs him that Sam isn’t dead, and oh the Shakespearean level of shitty timing, cuz now Dean’s dead! The doctor is able to bring Dean back, however, and he’s ready to GTFO and find his brother. Park ranger disagrees and tries to arrest and sedate him, since that is smart to do after eating a million sleeping pills. Michelle helps Dean to escape though, because she’s awesome.
While Dean is having his out of body experience, shit is getting real for Sam, since now the Bartender werewolf is in the cabin also, and heading to the basement. Sam is quick and dirty in dispatching them both, and steals their truck. Then he drives himself to the Impala, and calls Dean to warn him about Corbin. Like a fucking BOSS.
While Sam is taking care of business, the doctor decides to check on Corbin, who is embracing his new life with vigor and promptly kills her. Michelle finds the doctor, and tries to help her. The park ranger finds her there, but before he can help her, Corbin pops his hand through the ranger’s chest. Corbin tells Michelle that he didn’t choose this, but it “feels so good” and she’ll understand, once she’s turned. Michelle is justifiably concerned and terrified while her husband reaches his bloody hands to her, when Dean tackles Corbin from behind, fighting him until Corbin gets the upper hand, strangling Dean until Sam comes in and kills Corbin. Like a fucking BOSS. AGAIN.
In the aftermath of the trauma, Dean finds Michelle, sitting in shock in a waiting room chair and tells her that (ironically) Corbin trying to kill Sam put him into shock, which slowed his heart rate and bleeding, so he was only “MOSTLY dead” and that is basically how Sam lived. Michelle is not terribly impressed, however, since her husband turned into a monster and died before her very eyes. She wants Dean to know that Corbin was not a monstrous man, but he was driven to do terrible things because of his love and concern for her. And, if there’s anything Dean can relate to, it’s that. Dean tries to reassure her that, eventually, she’ll feel better and things will be ‘normal’ again. But how can they? Her husband, the man she loves, died violently in front of her, and now she knows about the monsters of the world. And here is where I think Jensen Ackles wins the awards. Watching Dean’s face while Michelle talks about losing the person she loves makes my heart break. We started this episode with Dean lost and despondent over the loss of his best friend to Lucifer, and we end it on the same note. In whichever way you want to see it, Dean loves Cas. And through this episode we have seen Dean literally stripped of everything and everyone he loves. This is Dean losing everything in his world. He has lost Cas, he thought he lost Sam. We see all this pain cross his face in seconds, and is a testament to Jensen’s acting that those seconds broke my heart more than anything else in this episode.
Leaving the clinic, Dean is back to his tough self, making me insane in the process. He lies to Sam about what he did when he thought Sam was dead. “I knew you weren’t.” Goddammit Dean. YOU KNOW this is going to bite you in the ass. Stop lying to Sam! Dean’s lying is disappointing, but completely in character, so what can you do?
BAMF of the week: Sam Fucking Winchester
Pies out of five:
What did you think of Red Meat?? What are your thoughts on this season so far? I know I’m late to the reviewing party, but I’m happy to talk about all the past episodes!